We live in an era of unprecedented interconnectedness. Globalization, regional and global markets, currencies and organizations, the speed of travel and more bring people from all areas of the globe together in a way that has never been seen before. Likewise, the internet has revolutionized the way we interact with each other: Facebook, Twitter, Skype, email and too many more for a tech moron like me to list bring people into virtual contact with friends, family and acquaintances the world over. I have over 400 friends on Facebook. Just the other day, 478 people landed on this blog to read about Sophie. We play such party games as Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon, which is in itself a funny little * of proving how connected we are in today’s weird and insanely fast world.
So why am I so lonely?
The answer is obvious: friends are different than soul mates. I have lost my soul mate, my closest and most enduring friend, my partner in everything from parenting to eating yummy stuff. Janie was the other half of Phil. Many of you never knew us before we were an item. I have a hard time recalling what life was like before she was in it. All I know is it was better with her as a part of it.
That said, I am not alone. Yesterday’s post spoke about family. Today’s will deal with the other part of the equation: friends. Not the Facebook kind, either, although many if not all of my friends are also Facebook friends.
A friend is one who has chosen to be in a relationship with you. That right there is already brilliant: you do not suck so badly that someone else would not want to hang out with you. Having even one friend validates your existence; it says that “I am, in fact, NOT the world’s most irritating and insufferable person!” If you were, well, you’d have no friends.
A friend is one who has made a wordless commitment to persevering in friendship with you until such a time as the trust therein is irrevocably broken. The first question to ask when someone no longer wants to be your friend is “what have I done wrong?” Sometimes people ditch us for no good reason. Rest assured, they weren’t real friends. It hurts, but you are the better for it. Real friends will tell you when you dropped the ball. They do this because a friend will also know you are a human being, and that at some point you’re likely to make a mistake. In love, they inform you of this in hope that you’ll make it right, and so the friendship endures.
A friend is one who chooses to love you. Some friendships can be taxing, but a friend chooses to love you and give you the grace you need. Right now, I am not an easy friend to have around. My moods change quicker than this year’s weather. I’m fine in the morning, indifferent by lunchtime, suicidal by 2:30 and fine again by the time the kids go to bed. And tomorrow, we do it all again…
I am glad to say I have many wonderful friends, both near and far, that have given me the necessary strength to just make it through the day. Friends like Shaun Kennedy-Gannon, who in the first week following Janie’s death took me out to the pub several times so that I could sob into my beer. Friends like Ben Aldous, who every week makes the time in his schedule to have breakfast with me, so I can sob into my eggs. Friends like Chris Steyn, who comes by once or twice a week just to talk.
Friends like Wendy De Goede, who was there all through every stage of this ordeal. Friends like Jo Stevens, who has lost her oldest friend, and who has now realized that life is more than work. You are most welcome back home, my dear.
Friends like Katie Aston-Rickardt, who was inspired to compose a training manual for Gorilla based upon our Janie. In fact, all the great apes at Gorilla have proven to be real friends to me during this time, each in their own way.
Friends like all my amigos in the States, who have sent reams of messages to me on Facebook, who fill my broken glass of hope just enough to keep me from careening over the edge of despair. Friends like the whole Salfrank clan, who sent us a care package filled with little memories and books for the kids. For the record, Tickle Monster and The Very Busy Spider have been on constant rotation during story time every night since the box arrived!
Friends like the supper club gang in the States, who constantly remind via Facebook of their love and how much they miss Janie. Friends like Patrick Callahan, who spoke so eloquently at Janie’s memorial in Delaware. In fact, the whole of the Archer Group gets an honourable mention their expressions of love and sorrow.
Friends like my old church in the States, First Alliance Church, whose support went beyond prayer to supplying for real, practical needs. Friends like the body at my church, Hillside, who have prayed for me and the kids and offered much emotional and spiritual support.
There are too many friends to remember… Ray Ray, for shooting me messages and reminders of your love towards your BFF. Emma, for loaning Shaun to me at a drop of a hat, and just being the Emma the babies adore. To the Frisingers, for helping out on what became a stupidly busy day. To Billy, who in the first day or two after Janie’s death basically took over all the nuts and bolts of little things that had to be done, that I couldn’t do. To Faye and Claire Weston, who have been so important for the kids. To everyone at my grief group, Nicole, Letia, Roger, everyone, who every week I get my dose of hope from others who have lost their soul mates too. To Ben and Kelly-Ayn Thomas who pour love into me even from so very far away. To all my buddies at PACA that have sent messages of condolence. To Chris and Faith Mercurio, whose care and concern, not to mention prayers, support all three of us every day. To all the parents at Fairy Tales playschool, such as Tony and Tonya Miles and Karen and Boun Monk-Klinstra, who have had us three over to play with their kids, to cry or just chill. To Amanda Legatt, who seems to have ninja skills for knowing when to drop by.
To all of you who sent cards, who have provided the meals that now crowd my freezer, that have called, Facebook messaged, emailed condolences, memories and prayers. To everyone who has pulled the fence around us in our time of need… how can I ever thank you?
This post is not about that, not about a generalized thank you. I want you, as you read this, to allow it to sink in… the hundreds of people, friends, acquaintances and more, all motivated by this one, catastrophic event.
Think of this word: network. The image at the top of this blog is of a grass basket. Grass, something so fragile on its own. When woven together it becomes strong, virtually unbreakable, and useful.
We are so fragile on our own, but when we are woven together in a network of friends, family, people who care, when that happens we become more than just individuals. We even become more than the sum of our parts. We become something useful, something purposeful.
We become the safety nets that catch us when we fall.
I have fallen far into a network of love and care.
Where would I be without this network? Adrift, cut off, more desperately alone than I could imagine.
Every time you feel badly about not doing more for a friend, like me, who is in a situation like this, remember the network. Everything you do counts for something.
Because of this network of family and friends, I know that I will make it, that Seanie will make it, that Sophie will make it. Every one of you that have done something, no matter how small, have thrown a little mortar into the foundation. Don’t forget that.
The danger with a post such as this is all the people I’ve forgotten to mention. I hope that love will cover over these omissions. I hope you know you play on my mind, even if it doesn’t happen when I am writing a post. Grief is such a self-centered thing. You become so aware of your sorrow, the loss, the pain, that sometimes you forget about everyone and everything else.
In time the boat will right itself and I will function normally again. That time is still some ways off.
I am lonely because I lost the love of my life, but I am not alone. The subtle difference there is the difference between a desperately sad yet hopeful individual and a suicidal person.
You have made all the difference.
Originally published August 16, 2011